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"O ancient holy ones, why do you marvel at us? The Word of God grows bright in the form of a man, and thus we shine with him, building the limbs of his beautiful body" (Hildegard). The poetic allusions in this passage are not difficult to identify. It is significant that the author uses personification to liken God's word to a physical being, one that "grows." This poetic device works well in conjunction with the feeling of beauty that this passage contains, which references the beauty in mankind's physical vessel that virtue and God's word are responsible for creating. Also, it is important to notice the reference to the virtues shining in this quotation, which returns the reader to the familiar theme of the sun as the representation of the spark of life in God that animates everything in the world, especially man himself. This passage is quite typical in its usage of poetic conventions, which are found throughout the majority of Hildegard's play.
In evaluating the different mediums that Hildegard used to express her poetry, it becomes necessary to discuss the reason why she routinely utilized this aspect of her character, (that of a poet) in so many diverse ways. Except for the Book of Subtleties of the Diverse Nature of Things, virtually all of Hildegard's various forms of expressions are about the power and influence of God. In its (not his) purest form, the notion of God is something that is incomprehensible to human beings. Thus, people routinely design parables and various aspects of the character of God that are like those of men in order to allow people to understand and accept God's power and influence. What Hildegard was really attempting to do in all of her writings was to convey the sense of the incomprehensible and something that really cannot be conveyed. Poetry is the perfect for to portray such thoughts and sentiments because of its nature. Poetry is able to go beyond the literal and the actual to express what cannot otherwise be expressed except through unusual comparisons and strong imagery, diction, and a number of literary devices. The workings and influence of God, then, is a perfect subject to express through poetry since it equally incomprehensible. In fact, true acts of God can only be expressed through poetry, which can be as elusive and intangible -- yet nonetheless powerful and influential -- as God himself.
A good example of the fact that poetry is useful for explaining the unexplainable especially as it relates to God (which is why Hildegard expressed herself in many different forms through poetry) is found in the saint's headaches, and their relationship to her visions and the works created from her visions. Many authors have claimed that Hildegard suffered from migraines (Harrison). However, these mysterious head-pounding episodes were not scientifically explained in Hildegard's time, which is why she chose to view them as signs of God. The following quotation demonstrates this notion. "One of her visions was of falling stars turning black as they plunge into the ocean. Hildegard interpreted this as the rebel angels falling from heaven" (Harrison). Although this vision is explainable in scientific terms relating to a migraine headache as "showers of phosphenes across the visual field, followed by a negative blind spot" (Harrison), it is important to understand it as Hildegard did in her interpretation of it. One cannot literally see stars darkly discoloring and falling into the sea; such an occurrence does not happen in reality. Therefore, to witness such a thing within one's mind requires an understanding of poetry, an intangible form, to express the significance of an intangible act. Hildegard even used poetry to explain her physical symptoms of headaches and attributing them to God, naturally then, she would use poetry to express other visions related to God as well.
In conclusion, there were many different things that Hildegard did well. In addition to painting, she was adept as songwriting and creating music, as well as writing poetry, non-fiction, and plays. Yet the unifying factor in all of these different mediums of expression was that they were sourced from her religious visions, and were all expressed in a poetic way. Poetry is the most readily available form to express the inexpressible, which the conception of God and his power certainly is to man. Thus, despite the different mediums that she excelled at, Hildegard was essentially a poet. It is crucial to note that her use of poetry in so many different applications -- not only just those related to writing but those related to music and visual arts as well -- would prove influential not just throughout the Catholic Church, but for the generations of poets, writers and Renaissance figures who would follow her.
Harrison, Paul. "Hildegard of Bingen: Visions of Divinity." www.pantheism.net. 1997. Web. http://www.pantheism.net/paul/history/hildegard.htm
Hildegard of Bingen. Book of Divine Works. Santa Fey: Bear & Company. 1987. Print.
Hildegard of Bingen. Symphonia: a Critical Edition of the Symphonia Armonie Celestium Revelationum. 2nd ed. Ithaca: Cornell University Press. 1998. Print.
Hildegard of Bingen. "Ordo Virtutum." Internet Archive. 1981. Web. http://web.archive.org/web/20071223171904/www.oxfordgirlschoir.co.uk/hildegard/ordovirtutumtext.html
Speciale, Alessandro. "Hildegard Von Bingen Officially Declared a Saint by Pope Benedict XVI." Huffington Post. 2012. Web. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/12/hildegard-von-bingen-saint_n_1511024.html
Hildegard was well renowned for expressing herself in a number of different mediums including visual arts, music, as well as through writing. A look at ther works in these fields indicates that the principle unifying factor among them is that the saint is using poetry. Poetry is the best way to address the intangible subject matter of God and his power, because poetry is intangible itself.[continue]
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